The Blues are playing their final road game of the regular season. Extraordinarily, it is against the likeliest opponent for the first round; well-played NHL scheduling guy! The easy temptation is to view this as a first-round preview, but I'm not sure that will actually be the case. Both teams have just one thing to play for: with help, either team could still win the Central Division. While home-ice is only a secondary goal, I don't think anybody is going to NOT play for it, either. I'm sure the owners want the potential 7th game box office revenue. As far as I'm concerned, I pray we can get home ice and avoid Chelsea Dagger for a game. As for the players, well ... they're competitive by nature.
That being the case, there's enough differences between now and next week that would prevent us from drawing any conclusions from tonight's results. Primarily, neither team is at 100% right now. The Hawks have been missing Corey Crawford since March 14th. In the 10 games since then, Scott Darling has been the starter in net. He's gone 6-3-1 and put up a .914 Save percentage in those games, including a shutout against Winnipeg. He's been perfectly capable, and played a major role in last year's playoffs as well. One of the best two-way forwards in the game, Marian Hossa, has been out of action since colliding with a Boston player April 3rd. His lower body injury has him day-to-day. It is unknown whether he'll be available for tonight's game, and it's the same story for Artem Anisimov who took a dirty hit from behind in their last game against Arizona. The Hawks will also be without the services of Andrew Shaw, who was last seen
on a wad of toilet paper in the April 1 game against the Jets. His injury is of the lower-body variety. Furthermore, lead defenseman Duncan Keith is sitting out the rest of the regular season due to suspension. He'll also miss the first game of the playoffs.
Despite these absences, the Hawks have a pretty decent record lately, 6-3-1 in their last ten. However, it has been noted that those were not playoff-bound teams that they were beating. As noted by a Chicago beat writer:
The #Blackhawks have lost 11 straight games to Western Conference playoff teams. It's been two months since they beat Dallas on Feb. 6.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 7, 2016
Albeit against that same competition, the Hawks have had good success on special teams:
The Blackhawks have gone 6-for-12 on their power play in their last three games, including 3-for-6 in their 6-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night. Their penalty kill, meanwhile, has gone 17-of-17 in the past six games.
So, while the Hawks have shown to be more mortal than in previous seasons, they do have some teeth still. If you take them for granted, there's still plenty there to bite you in the ass. I think Donut King said it best: until they don't pull out wins when it matters, you can't write them off for anything. You can never say never with these guys.
Meanwhile, the Blues fanbase held its collective breath on Wednesday, when word got out that Brian Elliott left practice early after taking a puck awkwardly off the wrist. Thankfully, we just had to wait for a minute to hear that he was just fine. While the Blues have been more deliberate with the injury news about Robby Fabbri, Jake Allen and David Backes, they were quick to give us an update on Elliott. I'm sure that had nothing to do with playoff tickets going on sale the same day.
Brian Elliott will be making the start for the Blues, and Scott Darling will be the man for the Hawks. Obviously Keith will be out, but the status on the rest of the injuries won't be known until sometime today. Sorry, but you can keep an eye on the twitter feed below. The Hawks have just called up Brian Bickell from the Ice Hogs; so ... that's a thing. One time he came up big in the postseason, but that was a while back. He may or may not make it into tonight's game. He'll have to get out of Q's doghouse first.
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Final Verse: The puck drops at 7:30 PM St Louis time, and the GameDay Thread should drop right here shortly beforehand. Please stop by and join us. The TV broadcast will be on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120AM. Feel free to sign up for the "please, just no more injuries" prayer chain.